Fonterra NZMP Ingredients general manager for South & East Asia, Hamish Gowans, spoke with DairyReporter recently about the region, and how Asian consumers are increasingly seeking specific nutritional benefits to support their growing interest in health and active living, while demanding greater convenience to fit urban, time-poor lifestyles.
Gowans said the diverse region covers 19 countries, from Afghanistan to the Indian sub-continent, on through Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“It’s diverse in terms of many things including cultures and language, things around market access, around just the evolution of our customers in those regions, and in the consumer evolution,” Gowans said.
“Markets like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, are becoming a bit more sophisticated in terms of the consumer offerings and convenience requirements.”
He said protein is rapidly evolving from a ‘fitness’ to a ‘health and wellness’ ingredient, as incomes rise and people become more aware of its benefits.
He added that while protein has long been associated with body builders and elite athletes, protein-fortified food has now expanded into the mainstream.
“Dairy in particular is an excellent source of high quality protein,” he said.
Dairy not just calcium
However, making the connection between dairy and protein can be a challenge.
“In some areas just the general knowledge from when we talk from a dairy perspective around dairy protein, you talk to a lot of people about dairy and for them it probably means calcium, but do they automatically make a link to dairy protein and the great protein that it is, certainly around the amino acid profile, which is critical for muscle development and satiety?
“So there is a little bit of education and engagement required and certainly the engagement we have with our customers here, they get it. They can hear this trend coming.”
He said there will likely be an evolution of products as education and product knowledge grows.
NZMP is committed to Asia for the future, and has already been in the market for some time, which Gowans acknowledges is a positive.
“We've got a long history with a lot of a lot of customers in the region so that certainly helps. Some of the free trade agreements that the New Zealand Government has been able to negotiate into this part of the world certainly helps that flow.
“This has partly been because of a deeper understanding of the markets. Another has been the structure of NZMP.”
Research on NPD
He noted the ingredients business is built on five key pillars: dairy beverages, consumer powders, pediatrics, active nutrition and dairy foods.
“Within those pillars you have a full complement of resource, right from manufacturing, R&D, market insights and a lot of research to understand where we should be heading,” Gowans explained.
“We spend around NZ$100m (US$72m) a year on R&D through our research center in Palmerston North. So you've got 350 people, with the bulk of them being scientists, purely focused around dairy protein and so we are starting to see more and more new launches.”